This might not be a question your teen asks you, but it is a hard question that’s good for teens to wrestle with. Why do I think so? It’s precisely what God suggests to Job, when he’s struggling with his own extreme suffering. He’d lost his children, his possessions, and his health, only to have his wife invite him to relinquish His faith in God, and his so-called friends rebuke him.
Sure his problems were a direct result of his sin. (We’ve already looked at how all suffering is, in a sense, linked to the first sin, but that’s beside the point.) But Job stubbornly clings to his faith-filled trust in the God of the Bible, as both in control and loving. In response to the natural human reaction (well, the most tame kind, anyway — Job is pretty remarkable!), God responds with His own set of questions, all geared toward revealing Job’s limited knowledge and power. Why is that even helpful?
The Nature of Spiritual Battles
Ephesians 6:12 describes the main battle of every human being as spiritual: “against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” What does that look like, exactly? The fact that it’s spiritual means that by its very nature, we can’t see this kind of thing or sense it with our 5 senses. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less real. Job 1 gives us a rare glimpse, as we get to “listen in” on a discussion between God and Satan. This. Is. Real.
Most of the time we have no clue what’s being said or planned, but I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to guess what the dark forces are trying to achieve in our lives, during difficult times — or even good times. C.S. Lewis has some pretty interesting ideas of his own, detailed in his fictional work The Screwtape Letters, in which a master demon instructs his rookie nephew. The more we realize that there is a spiritual battle that’s going on, the more likely we’ll be to gear up, strengthen our resolve, and fight like our lives depend on it! Ephesians 6 doesn’t stop at letting us know there’s a battle; it goes on to instruct us on how to fight it.
The Humility of Not Knowing
Job isn’t the only one to be falsely accused of earning suffering by his own wickedness. While it makes perfect sense to human reasoning for God to reward those who faithfully follow Him with good health, financial blessings, and an overall easy life, He doesn’t always do that. It seems like it would be in His best interest to do so, yet He doesn’t.
Back to that conversation with Job, I wonder how many people who don’t care a bit about God would say to Him the same thing Satan did, except that when they see someone who clearly loves God suffering worse circumstances than they do, they know they have no excuse. And they may fall to their knees. And you and I may never know about it.